The biggest downgrade from the X900E and X930E in the Sony lineup above are that the X850E has no full array backlighting and instead is edge lit. Full array backlighting is one of the best (and most expensive when done right) feature differences when comparing one LED-LCD TV to another. A good full array backlit picture can produce more contrast in critical areas of the screen and also help with side angle viewing quality due to increased brightness. However the X850E does gain the new 4K HDR Processor X1 introduced this year. I’m glad that Sony has kept the X850E series similar to last years X850D with only a few upgrade touches. We loved this TV last year for its exceptional picture/price combination along with good solid features and value. The same applies this year with the X850E. The new processor does a great job of cleaning up and upgrading lower end picture signals. HDR is originally a camera feature, and in order to enjoy HDR on this TV, the content will also have to have been filmed in HDR. Essentially what you get with HDR is higher luminosity and contrast, and as a practical measure this feature enhances detail in shadows, and especially sun highlighted effects.
Contrast is not a strong point of the X850E. It’s very difficult for edge lit LCD TVs to display great contrast. In a dark room situation with movies this TV will not be the videophile’s choice. We measure contrast around 1500:1, not bad for sure, but not in the upper echelon of TVs these days, especially with OLED TVs near perfect black levels. Of course the issue with contrast in edge lit LCD TVs is always black level. The TV can get bright enough, but the black levels cant get deep enough. That said, brightness is certainly not of the quality of the 900E or 930E in the series above due to their full array backlighting.
Realistic color rendition is a staple of the high end Sony TVs. Colors are not over-saturated while grayscale uniformity looks good to the eye, yielding a smooth picture. We rarely see an LED back lit TV with such even back light uniformity especially of the side lit variety – no clouding in blacks and no dark shadows in a mid-tone gray screen. Light flow-through is not as vibrant as some TVs but this depends more on content quality. By measurement, the uniformity suffers some in the corners and on the sides of the panel.
This wide-gamut color technology has been fantastic for Sony for a couple years. It produces much more realism and true-to-life color renditions than most of Sony’s competitors, and in general takes less calibration effort to obtain an enjoyable picture setup. Colors are not over-juiced as they are with some, but they still have plenty of pop and are beautiful.
Up-scaling and conversion is Sony’s bread and butter and it’s the best attribute of the X850E. The new 4K HDR Processor X1 engine is exceedingly good at up-converting and smoothing the HD signal to the native resolution of the panel. If this were not the case, why buy a 4K TV in the first place except to future proof? There still is not enough 4K content to be concerned with, so up-scaling has to be a preeminent consideration.
One of the best performances we’ve seen in this area for a mid-priced 4K TV although this is still a weakness of all LED-backlit LCD TVs. The IPS panel included in the x850E is built for better side angle viewing, making this a good game day TV. Color saturation and contrast begin degrading at around 15 degrees, they do not degrade noticeably until around 20 degrees off center. The screen is semi-matte and does a good job of not reflecting in room light. I like this screen and TV better at night in a low light room due to it not having as much light-flow from the LED backlights (as some other brands).
If you don’t have any time to make adjustments, try the Cinema Pro setting for nighttime viewing and the Cinema Home setting for daytime viewing.
(For HDMI inputs there are also Photo-Vivid, Photo-Standard, Photo-Custom, Game, Graphics) Of course, the Game mode is the preferred setting for gaming to cut down on input lag.
Sony does not seem smitten by the curved screen craze from Samsung. I agree with them. What’s the point? Sony’s design elements are simple and straightforward with the 2016/2017 selections with a very thin quarter inch frame and 2” or so depth on the X850E series. The frame is made of aluminum and has a nice high end look to it. It’s basically the same matte black finish frame that looked good last year.
The X850E has the newest Google Android TV ops system 6.0. Android TV featured Apps include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Crackle and SiriusXM, and around 30 small insignificant Apps. Add HBO NOW, EPIX, Starz Play, Fusion, Pluto TV and a few more to the assortment this year. At first it looks like a limited selection until you delve into the Google Play Music, Games, Movies and TV options. Then lots more content opens up. What we really like is the operation speed combined with excellent video and sound quality of the Android/Google Play section of the Smart TV offerings. This is differentiated from the competition. The voice search function on the touchpad remote works exceptionally well and fast with You Tube and Google Play options.
Google Cast allows you to show movies, pictures, and TV shows from your IOS or Android based smartphone or from a laptop. We think the best use of Google Play is gaming.
The new jet black matte finish touch pad remote from Sony has a very nice fast responsive touch pad that definitely speeds across Smart TV Apps and also speeds up search considerably when typing on the on-screen keypad. It’s a swipe and click pad, not as good as the point and click remotes but an upgrade over a 5-way controller. The word recognition in the voice search function is extremely impressive and is very useful for web browsing. Even searching for peoples names in the You Tube App, the Android search picked up immediately. The voice search function is mostly useful for You Tube, and Google Play searches. The voice recognition search works even in a noisy room. The TVs response time on delivering results is fast and accurate.
The TV menu interface is clean looking (albeit confusing) and there are tons of preset picture options (7 not counting photo.) The Cinema Pro and Cinema Home settings are good right out of the box. But operation of the menu system is quirky and difficult and there are some mis-titled settings such as Brightness rather than Backlight. The processor also had a tough time handling commands given too quickly. The Smart TV layout is easily accessed by the Home button on the remote. This brings up all the Smart TV Apps and Google Play options.
The Film or Cinemotion (depending on software update) Picture Setting is located in the Picture Setting Adjustments menu, under Advanced Settings, under Clarity. The setting combined with the Motionflow setting has an impact on whether your picture is over-clarified by eliminating too much natural background blur. This creates the dreaded “Telenovela effect”. It’s easy to prevent on the X850E. All you have to do is keep the Motionflow Smoothness setting at level 3 and Clearness setting at level 2 and tune the Film/Cinemotion setting to Off or Low. The feature only provides frame compensation to remove judder at the top two settings of Medium and High. All of that said, The Telenovela Effect is not nearly as pronounced and distracting in the X850E as with many TVs on the market such as the Samsung’s.
The X850E comes preset with the ClearAudio+ feature set to on. There are too many unwanted side effects from this sound setting including a hollow echoing effect. We recommend immediately turning this feature Off. This is all we needed to adjust to get a respectable sound quality from the TV. Voices were clearly separated from background noise and music. Both are nicely defined for a good sound quality (for a TV). Volume capability is adequate but not the best tested. It takes a 50% volume setting to fill a large room.
The X850 model has been one of our favorite value models for years. This is no different with the X850E. If the TV is being used for viewing in a room with lots of light, you will be pleased with the performance even at side angles. Sony has a tendency to come out with higher prices on initial rollout of models and then reduce price as the year progresses so watch for that. model predecessor to the X850D ended up being one of the best value models in the market after a few price drops late in the year. So do not be discouraged if the X850D starts out at a little higher price than you want. It will likely come down. We expect the XBR-65X850E to sell for around $1400 and the XBR-55X850E to sell for around $950.
XBR-65X850E without stand 57 1/4 x 33 1/8 x 1 3/4″
XBR-65X850E with stand with 57 1/4 x 35 3/4 x 10 1/2″